Saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi adapts the compositions of street musician Moondog to jazz | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi adapts the compositions of street musician Moondog to jazz



Even by New York City standards, Louis “Moondog” Hardin (1916-1999) was a character. For a quarter century beginning in the late 1940s, his blind, hirsute form occupied a spot on Sixth Avenue. Sometimes he performed or sold his music, and other times he just stood there, looking imposing in Viking garb. His music included proto-minimalist orchestral pieces and short, intricate rounds that sounded like a glee club vocalizing over Native American rhythms, which Moondog had become enamored with as a child while visiting an Arapaho reservation in Wyoming. Chicago tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi (who leads Natural Language, cofounded Twin Talk, and plays with Bon Iver) was first drawn to Moondog’s quirks, but his interpretations of the composer’s music show deep respect for its ingratiating melodies and exacting structures. Laurenzi has assembled an eclectic array of jazz musicians, some of whom don’t play together in any other setting, to realize these arrangements. Bassist Matt Ulery and drummers Ryan Packard and Quin Kirchner add muscular syncopation to the Arapaho-inspired grooves. Guitarist Dave Miller and a horn section that includes bass clarinetist Jason Stein, alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, and trumpeter Chad McCullough transform Moondog’s brief, interlocking themes into launching pads for open-ended improvisations that occasionally veer toward dissonance (which the composer likely would not have countenanced) while amplifying their joyfulness. This concert celebrates the release of Snaketime: The Music of Moondog (Astral Spirits), recorded at the Hungry Brain in 2018. Drummer Phil Sudderberg subs for an absent Packard.   v

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